Secretaries perform a wide range of administrative and clerical duties that help keep organizations running smoothly. They manage information within an office, plan meetings, schedule appointments, organize files, and conduct research. They operate telephones and e-mail, and handle the postal mail in the office. When performing their duties, they use a variety of different types of office equipment, including telephone systems, photocopiers, and facsimile machines. They also operate personal computers extensively, using them to create spreadsheets, compose correspondence, manage databases, and create presentations and reports. They use desktop publishing software and digital graphics to create many types of documents.
These days, secretaries have taken on many tasks that were previously completed by managers and professionals. Other office workers have also taken over many responsibilities that were previously the realm of secretaries, including dictation and typing. Because secretaries are no longer responsible for these tasks, they have more time available for supporting executives in the organization. Secretaries often work in teams so they can be flexible and share experience.
Secretaries should have excellent customer service skills. They also need to have good interpersonal communication skills in general. Because they deal with so many different types of people on a daily basis, they need to have a very tactful personality. Other important qualities include discretion, good judgment, initiative, and independence.
In 2002, secretaries earned a median annual salary of $33,410. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $22,270, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $50,420. The following shows the median annual salaries in the industries employing the largest numbers of secretaries:
- Management of companies and enterprises — $36,770
- Local government — $34,600
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools — $32,210
- State government — $31,220
- Employment services — $29,700
Training and Education
Secretarial positions usually require, at the very minimum, a high school education and knowledge of basic office skills. However, requirements increasingly surpass this level of training because organizations need secretaries who have greater knowledge of a wider range of software applications, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and database management. 1- to 2-year programs in office administration are becoming more and more common. These programs are usually offered by business schools, vocational-technical institutes, and community colleges. Temporary placement agencies also offer training in computers and office skills. Regardless of their level of training, newly hired secretaries usually receive a high amount of on-the-job training from other, more experienced employees. There are a couple different professional designations that can be earned, including Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). Click on this link to a list of schools offering Sectrarial Training Courses and to contact their admissions departments for more information.
In 2002, secretaries held about 1,975,000 jobs. They were employed in all different kinds of organizations.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of secretaries is expected to increase more slowly than the average. This is due to increased office automation, which results in rising productivity. This is expected to increase over the coming years as personal computers, e-mail, scanners, and voice messaging systems allow workers to complete larger quantities of work in fewer amounts of time. However, the personal, interactive, customer-service-oriented aspect of the job cannot be easily automated. Job opportunities will be best for those who have experience as well as strong knowledge of software applications.